Abigail Adams Quotes

Abigail Adams, 1744 – 1818

Born: 11 November 1744, Weymouth, Province of Massachusetts Bay
Died: 28 October 1818, Quincy, Massachusetts

As was normal for girls at the time, Abigail was given no education but had free access to her father’s library and encouragement from her mother, grandmother, and aunts. Although sickly as a child she was flourishing when, at seventeen, she surprised her third cousin, John Adams, with the depth of her knowledge on many subjects. Two years later they began the marriage that would give them six children and fifty-four years together. “Together”, in this case, included a great deal of separation and Abigail was often left in charge of the family and farm while John was about the business of starting a new country. We can be grateful for their separation: It is from the huge collection of letters she wrote, mostly to her husband, that we know her and have learned a great many details of life in the colony and in the early United States. Over twelve hundred of her letters have been preserved and many of them were compiled and published in 1840 by her grandson, Charles Francis Adams. Although politics had led to hard feelings between the Adamses and Thomas Jefferson, when his daughter died Abigail sent her condolences and the correspondence between them healed that rift. Those letters reveal a strong opposition to slavery and an early demand for equal rights and education for women. She died of typhoid fever at age 73, John was, of course, away from home and her last words to him were in a letter. Abigail Adams was the first second lady of the US and the second first lady, although those terms weren’t then in use. She was also the first to be the wife of one president and the mother of another.

Abigail Adams quotes:

A little of what you call frippery is very necessary towards looking like the rest of the world.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (1 May 1780)

A people may let a King fall, yet still remain a people, but if a King let his people slip from him, he is no longer a King.
    Abigail Adams

Arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (7 May 1776)

Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long.
    Abigail Adams – her last letter to John Adams (1818)

Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.
    Abigail Adams

Every object is beautiful in motion; a ship under sail, trees gently agitated with the wind, and a fine woman dancing, are three instances in point.
    Abigail Adams – letter to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1784)

Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (27 November 1775)

Great necessities call out great virtues.
    Abigail Adams – letter to her son John Quincy Adams (19 January 1780)

How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking!
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (10 July 1775)

How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (10 July 1775)

I acknowledge myself a unitarian — Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father…. There is not any reasoning which can convince me, contrary to my senses, that three is one, and one three.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Quincy Adams (5 May 1816)

I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries, ‘Give, give’.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (27 November 1775)

I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life.
    Abigail Adams – letter to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1784)

I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Every object is beautiful in motion; a ship under sail, trees gently agitated with the wind, and a fine woman dancing, are three instances in point. Man was made for action and for bustle too.
    Abigail Adams – letter to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1784)

I most sincerely wish that some more liberal plan might be laid and executed for the Benefit of the rising Generation, and that our new Constitution may be distinguished for encouraging Learning and Virtue.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (14 August 1776)

I regret the narrow contracted education of the females of my own country.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (30 June 1778)

I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in this province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me — to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (24 September 1774)

I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.
    Abigail Adams

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (31 March 1776)

If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Thaxter (29 September 1778)

If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (14 August 1776)

If you complain of neglect of Education in sons, what shall I say with regard to daughters, who every day experience the want of it?
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (14 August 1776)

It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific nation, that great characters are formed…. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.
    Abigail Adams

It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to… Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Thaxter (15 February 1778)

Knowledge is a fine thing, and mother Eve thought so; but she smarted so severely for hers, that most of her daughters have been afraid of it since.
    Abigail Adams – letter to Elizabeth Shaw (20 March 1791)

Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Quincy Adams (8 May 1780)

Luxury, that baneful poison, has unstrung and enfeebled her sons.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams (13 February 1779)

Man was made for action and for bustle too, I believe.
    Abigail Adams – letter to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1784)

Many of our disappointments and much of our unhappiness arise from our forming false notions of things and persons.
    Abigail Adams

Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as vassals of your Sex.
    Abigail Adams – letter to John Adams

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